The breeze gently lifted my hair from my shoulders, bringing with it the scent of flowers. The many different fragrances of roses, daffodils, and lilies were a bit nauseating. My sandals squished across the wet grass as I trudged toward my worst nightmare: the grave of my husband, Sean.
The concrete slab was still fresh and new. It had only been two weeks since his untimely death, yet it felt like a lifetime had passed. My heart ached from the sorrow embedded in my chest. I kept the tears at bay. I was so tired of crying. So tired.
“Well, that’s a sad sight if I’ve ever seen one.”
I turned my head toward the musical, chiming voice, my eyes wide as the tears dropped against my cheek. A woman sat perched on a raised headstone, her gray curls hidden by a straw hat. Wrinkles lined her face, yet her eyes sparkled with youth.
“Now, now. No need to cry, my dearest. I am here to grant you your deepest desire.”
My deepest desire? How could she know that, and who is this woman? She clearly ran away from the psych ward.
“I can see the wheels turning in your head. I can assure you, I am not crazy.”
I laughed, a slight sob escaping my throat. “Who are you?”
“You can call me your fairy godmother. Though, I am neither of those things, really.” She offered a kind, grandmotherly smile.
I raised one brow at the woman who claimed she wasn’t crazy yet called herself a fairy. “My fairy godmother? Like in Cinderella?” My skeptical tone betrayed my inner feelings.
“Exactly.” She raised her chin, daring me to challenge her.
I scoffed and turned on my heel. I was done listening to Ms. Psychotic Godmother.
“You still don’t believe me?” she called from behind my back.
I ignored her and continued walking.
“What if I were to tell you I can bring your husband back to life?”
My steps halted. Was she serious? And should I believe her? I eased my head around.
Her lips spread into a wide grin. “Ah. Now I have your attention.”
I shook my head, willing my body to return to my car. Despite my intentions, I didn’t move.
She pulled a red, long stem rose from the satchel resting on her hip. I watched in astonishment as the flower floated through the air. The rose bud’s color turned into a vibrant, glowing pink. She spoke as her hands twirled, and the flower grew into a full bloom. “I will revive your husband temporarily. By the time this flower dies, you must release your husband to his fate.”
Only temporarily? What did she want in exchange? Surely she wasn’t offering to bring Sean back for nothing.
“What’s the cost? I'm sure you’re not doing this out of the kindness of your heart.”
The witch or fairy—I hadn’t yet decided—laughed with glee. “You are a smart one, I see.” She winked at me. “Think of it as a test?” she paused. “Yes, a test. You must reveal your secret to him, and if he still loves you afterward, you may choose your life or his. If he does not love you, you both die and I keep your soul. Sound fair?”
Fair? No, not at all. Was it worth it to take a chance and risk losing my soul? I would finally get a proper goodbye.
My thoughts raced, pondering this for a few moments more. “Okay.’’ I whispered with a nod.
“Excellent!” The witch clapped her hands.
Within seconds, the glowing flower landed in my arms. I stumbled back with a yelp as the thorns pierced my flesh and fiery pain shot through my limbs. I looked at the deadly thing with disdain. With a sinking, gut wrenching certainty, I knew the blood was a symbol of sorts.
The ground rumbled beneath my feet, reviving me from my thoughts. Sean’s headstone exploded in a pile of dust, the sound vibrating my ear drums. The flower tumbled to the ground as I ducked, covering my face with my arms. My legs shook, and my heart pounded wildly against my chest. I took a deep breath, keeping my arms in front of my face as I expelled the air from my lungs with force.
Must calm down.
Once my heart stilled, I lowered my arms, gazing at the broken earth. My husband’s long arms shot into the air like a scene out of a horror movie. His hand grabbed onto the more solid ground outside of his grave, and he crawled out of it. He climbed to his feet, sandy blonde hair covered in mud. He rubbed his hazel eyes and spoke with a raspy voice. “Ava!”
I cried out, racing to him. I launched my body into his. “Yes, baby. It’s me!”
He patted my hair, holding me as I cried against his chest. He didn’t ask any questions, which was surprising. I clung to him like a monkey hugging a tree, not caring that he was cold and dirty, or that we were standing next to his grave.
I raised my eyes to his. “Let’s go home. I’ll explain everything, promise.”
He smiled at me with a nod, his dirty hands brushing my hair away from my face. I lost myself in the sensations of him. My beloved. God, I missed his touch.
“Tick-tock,” the witch chimed in.
My head swiveled around to the old crazy person still perched on a headstone, a grin painted on her face. With a wave of her hand, the glowing flower rose from the ground and flew through the air, pausing to hover over her open palm. The petals were… wilting? Yes, they were wilting already!
“I thought we would have more time,” I said.
The fairy’s smile was enigmatic. “I only said temporarily. I never specified for how long. You should have asked that question beforehand.”
I panicked, my heart racing with wild abandon. My thoughts swirled as the memories surfaced, and the guilt weighed heavily on my shoulders. There’s not enough time!
I looked up at Sean, gazing into his haunted hazel eyes. He looked so sad—and I was about to make it worse. I took a deep breath. “Sean, I have to tell you something.”
He nodded with patience I didn’t deserve.
I took another breath. “I cheated on you. I’m sorry.” My gaze dropped from his. I couldn’t stand the look of betrayal in his eyes.
“Ah.Ah.Ah. The whole truth or this won’t work,’’ my fairy bitchmother added.
I choked back the tears. “I… I had an affair.” I gulped. “With your best friend.”
He stepped back from me, eyes wide. His voice remained raspy as he spoke. “Chase? You had an affair with Chase!”
I nodded. “I’m sorry.” My tone matched his raspy one.
He shook his head and folded his arms across his chest. “How could you do this to me?” he said flatly.
I didn’t know how to answer his question without hurting him, and it seemed I had to be honest anyway. “You weren’t around. I was lonely and… well, Chase was there… and it just happened. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I love you. I should’ve just told you I needed you to be around me more.” My words rambled out. I prayed they made sense.
He paused and blew out a breath. “Of course, I still love you.” He raked a hand through his hair. “I died”—he looked at his grave—” so I suppose it’s time we put that stuff behind us so you can move on. Come here.”
He held his arms out to me. I stepped into him, wrapping my arms around his dirty body, inhaling his stench of death.
“It seems you passed the test. Congratulations, my dear. Now, time for the next test.”
I turned to the fairy with outrage. “What?”
She waved her hand, and the flower disappeared, replaced by a small, rust-colored dagger. “Yes, now you may choose. Your life.” She pointed the dagger at me. “Or his.”
“You mean… I get to die in his place?”
“No.” Sean shook his head adamantly. “I won’t let you.”
I smiled at him from beneath my watery eyes. “You deserve to live. I’m the one who failed you.”
The dagger appeared in my hand. I wrapped my fingers around the cold metal with a tight grip.
Sean’s gaze followed the blade. He reached a hand out to stop me, a frown plastered on his lips. But he was too slow. I turned the dagger around and plunged it into my black heart.
The pain was unlike anything I had imagined. My entire body burned with it. Unable to scream, I sank to the floor, choking out blood and scratching at my chest. My vision faded as the pain dulled. My body floated and my mind eased. I felt… at peace.
Something reeled me back into my body. My eyes peeled open, a scream of protest waiting behind my lips. Sean kneeled over me, his lips pressed in a flat line and his eyes cold.
I sat up slowly, coated in blood. My mouth was sticky.
I wiped a hand across my lips and cleared my throat. “What? How am I alive?” My eyes darted to the fairy godmother. Her eyes twinkled.
“You sacrificed yourself for him, and now you both get to live.”
I was no longer surprised—this had been one hell of a night—so I asked the only important question. “Do I get to keep my soul?”
My eyes landed back on Sean. He stepped away from me.
“You were supposed to die and stay dead.” He looked at the fairy. “That was the deal, demon. You said if I told her I still loved her, she would kill herself instead, and I would get to live.”
My thoughts swirled with confusion. What was happening? What did he mean? I stood up, which proved to be more effort than I anticipated. My legs wobbled. I forced them to move as I stepped toward Sean. I placed a hand on his shoulder, turning him to look at me.
“What are you talking about, Sean? You made a deal with her first? You already knew about my affair?”
Too many questions.
“Of course I already knew. I found out right before I died. And I planned to kill that traitorous son of a bitch for touching you. I was on my way to his house when someone hit me and… I don’t remember the rest.” He furrowed his brow.
“You were going to kill him! God, Sean! What is wrong with you?” I shouted hysterically.
“Of course I was going to kill him. And now I have the chance to do it, thanks to you. I’ll do so much with this second chance that you’ve given me, baby.”
He stepped toward me with crazed eyes. Fear spiked through me.
The fairy godmother jumped off her headstone. “I think it’s time for you to leave,” she said, her voice stern.
He paused to glare at her, then shook his head and turned on his heel. “Not worth it,” he muttered to himself.
I stood in silence, no longer sad. Not even angry. I was numb as I watched my husband leave the graveyard, his stride smooth. So much had happened. I didn’t know how to process it or what to think. I did know one thing, though. I couldn’t let him kill Chase. My gaze snapped back to the witch.
“Would you like to make a deal?”